Carlos Sainz won his third Dakar on Friday in Qiddiya, a city to build from which the name still barely exists. The Mini driver (Madrid, 57 years old), who finished the special at 3m 56s from Nasser Al Attiyah, was proclaimed champion of this Dakar Rally for his speed and the excellent navigation of his co-driver Lucas Cruz. He finished an impeccable career, in which he barely made mistakes, and led from the third stage. “I am very happy, for everything, because there is a lot of effort behind this triumph, a lot of tests, a lot of training and physical preparation, a lot of work with the team. For such a veteran driver this is fantastic, you have to work very hard. Thanks to the team, to Lucas, we have made a great effort. It has been a very difficult Rally, from the beginning with a lot of risk, ”he said as soon as he finished the timed.
He was not given anything by his rivals, the everlasting Al Attiyah (Toyota) and Stéphane Peterhansel (Mini), who tickled him in the second week of the race, especially after a ninth stage in which he saw the advantage reduced to nothing kept in the classification. Barely 24 seconds separated him at the beginning of the tenth stage of the Qatari. But Sainz didn’t leave much room for his pursuers to get excited. He took advantage of the difficulty of last Wednesday’s special to sentence with a victory, the fourth, which gave him 18 minutes in front of the general. Since then he had no more to manage with intelligence – and with those gray hairs that, he warned, “are useful for something” – his advantage. “Only the three of us know how much we have been shooting since day one. We have been running full since the beginning, ”added Sainz, the oldest driver to win the Dakar Rally. In fact, it surpasses its own brand, the one that beat with its last triumph in 2018, eight years after its first Dakar.
Sainz finished this Friday’s special, shorter than expected, just 167 kilometers between Haradh and Qiddiya, with the patience of having everything under control. He reached the finish line with the fifth fastest time. Al Attiyah took the stage, which also allowed him to tie the second place of the general ahead of Peterhansel, who opened the track and gave 3m 31s.
The victory of Sainz is virtual until his Mini, with the number 305, reaches the goal of the Grand Prix of Qiddiya, a very short special, only 13 kilometers, which does not count for the general classification, but that the competitors are obliged to finish. It will be a ride for the champions, who after those 13 kilometers will reach the final podium directly.
Brabec makes history
On motorcycles, Ricky Brabec (California, 28 years old) was proclaimed champion of this rally, the first to be held in Saudi Arabia. And made history. Not only is he the first American to win the Dakar. He also managed the Honda driver with his triumph to break the winning streak of KTM, which had won the race the last 18 years. Honda had not won the Dakar since it did so in 1989. Ciryl Neveu (three times), Edi Orioli (in 1988) and Gilles Lalay (in 1989) were the previous winners. In 2013, Honda returned to the Dakar Rally after 23 years of absence and with the aim of giving alternative to KTM. They have achieved it after eight years in which they have barely managed to get on the final podium twice, the first in 2015 with Paulo Gonçalves, who died last Sunday in the race, and the last in 2018, with Kevin Benavides.
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